Welcome to meeting number 50 of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of June 23, 2022. Members are attending in person in the room, as well as remotely using the Zoom application.
I'd like to make a few comments for the benefit of the members and the witnesses before we get started.
First of all, kindly wait until I recognize you by name before speaking. For those participating by video conference, click on the microphone icon to activate your mike and please mute yourself when you are not speaking. Interpretation for those on Zoom is at the bottom of your screen. You have the choice of floor, English or French.
Again, I'd just like to remind everyone to wait to be recognized by the chair before you speak.
In accordance with our routine motion—or the Bergeron motion, as I like to refer to it—I can assure all members that all witnesses have completed the required connection tests in advance of the meeting.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Thursday, February 9, 2023, the committee is holding a briefing on the humanitarian crisis following a series of earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.
It is now my pleasure to welcome, from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Mr. Stephen Salewicz, director general, international humanitarian assistance; Mr. Jess Dutton, director general, Middle East bureau; Ms. Tara Carney, director of the international humanitarian assistance operations, who is reappearing once again—thank you for that—and Mr. Andrew Turner, director, eastern Europe and Eurasia division.
Mr. Salewicz, you will be provided with five minutes for your remarks. After that, we will proceed to rounds of questioning. I will signal to you when you are 30 seconds short of the allotted time, and I would be grateful if you could wrap it up. The same goes for questions that are put to you by the members. Once we are approaching the allotted time, I will put this card up so that you have a good sense of timing.
Now I will—
Yes, Mr. Bergeron.
Good morning, committee members.
As of February 14, more than 37,000 deaths have been reported in Turkey and northwest Syria following two of the most powerful earthquakes to hit the region in more than 100 years. These earthquakes are historic in both their size and in the scale of their destruction.
I join the government and the people of Canada in extending our condolences to the people of Turkey and Syria, and to families and friends in mourning. I hope for a full recovery for the injured.
More than 6,000 buildings are reported to have been destroyed in Turkey and one million people have been forced from their homes. Across both countries, critical infrastructure, including hospitals, has been destroyed or damaged, which has only increased the needs and complicated efforts by first responders, who've been hard hit as well.
Some of the most severe damage occurred in major urban centres that serve as critical logistical hubs for the delivery of aid into northeast Syria. In northwest Syria, this disaster is only exacerbating the situation, which was already precarious due to conflicts, insecurity, an ongoing cholera epidemic, difficult winter conditions and major population displacements.
In both countries, the immediate destruction has been amplified by thousands of aftershocks causing further damage to buildings. This is forcing thousands to stay away from their homes, facing harsh winter conditions without shelter.
and expressed their condolences and support for Turkey immediately, as did countless numbers of Canadians.
Ankara is a long-standing partner of Canada, so when they requested our help, we responded. Last Tuesday, the held a call with her Turkish counterpart, during which she expressed Canada's readiness to assist. Canada has since been coordinating closely with Turkish officials, including the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority, which leads Turkey's response efforts. In his call with the Turkish ambassador last week, underlined Canada's commitment to coordinate our response with key international partners and the Government of Turkey.
Canada's diplomatic missions on the ground are actively engaged, as are our officials here in Ottawa. We're engaging regularly with the Turkish embassy to get the most recent requests for assistance and to facilitate the deployment of Canadian experts.
Our support has been swift and meaningful. Canada has invested in a responsive international humanitarian system. This support has contributed to the UN's standing capacity to rapidly respond to national disasters. It has facilitated the immediate deployment of two UN disaster assessment and coordination teams to the region to help with critical coordination efforts, and the release of $75 million in allocations from a variety of UN emergency funds to rapidly scale up operations.
Canada is already one of the largest contributors to the humanitarian response in Syria, having provided nearly $50 million in 2023 alone to the UN, Red Cross and NGO partners to respond to needs. This support has enabled partners on the ground to rapidly pivot their operations to respond to needs resulting from the earthquakes.
Since 2016, Canada has provided over $660 million in humanitarian assistance to Syria. In the the immediate aftermath of the disaster, announced $10 million in additional humanitarian assistance. This funding will be used to support emergency medical services and provide shelter, food and other essential items to crisis-affected populations across the region.
On February 8, it was further announced that Canada will match donations to the Canadian Red Cross earthquake appeal. Every donation made by individuals to the Canadian Red Cross between February 6 and February 22 will be matched, up to a maximum of $10 million. These funds will support the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in its response to the humanitarian needs caused by the earthquakes. Canada is also working with the Canadian Red Cross to deploy critical relief supplies that we have pre-positioned in warehouses in Dubai.
These initial allocations reflect a critical lesson learned from past disasters. Working with local actors and those already on the ground allows us to provide relief to those most in need as quickly and as effectively as possible.
In addition, we've also deployed a joint Global Affairs and Canadian Armed Forces assessment team to the field to identify additional opportunities for Canadian engagement.
Canada will continue to work closely with partners on the ground to assess needs and coordinate further support to ensure a needs-based humanitarian response to the crisis.
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here.
Of course, all of us are horrified by this disaster. I'm sure all of us would agree we want to do what we can and really want to help people there.
My question is about the matching donations.
As you just said, you're matching the donations to the Red Cross up until the 22nd for relief efforts in Turkey and Syria. The Red Cross is a great organization, doing great things. The reality, though, is that many Canadians donate to organizations they're familiar with. For example, many newcomers donate to Islamic Relief and may not be as comfortable with the Red Cross. Others donate to World Vision, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Oxfam, etc.
Will the government expand the matching program to include organizations like Oxfam, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, World Vision, Islamic Relief and others?
I'd like to thank all of the witnesses for being here this morning and for all of the work that they do in support of those who are suffering on the ground in Turkey and Syria. Although our comments may sometimes seem critical, please know that we acknowledge the work you do in the interest of those who are suffering, and for that, we are eternally grateful to you.
I'd like to quickly address the issue of matching donations. I think my colleagues have already adequately communicated to you the concerns we keep hearing about the organizations that can benefit from these matching donations, so I won't get into that again.
What I get from your presentation is that, in addition to the matching fund, there are also funds going to various NGOs helping the victims on the ground, in Turkey as well as in Syria. I'd appreciate it if you could confirm that for me.
Furthermore, the matching program is capped at $10 million. How were the ceiling and contribution deadline determined? Personally, I feel like the deadline might be a little tight, but I suppose there's a reason for that. Would you be able to shed some light on that?
Thank you for the series of questions.
Just to confirm, we already have been funding a series of partners in Syria beyond the Red Cross movement for an extended period of time. They are delivering assistance and are members of the Humanitarian Coalition. We have strong partnerships already in place.
Why is it $10 million? It's a question we have faced in the past. We used to work through something we called a relief fund. This relief fund was open-ended. There was no limit to the amount of funding that would be provided. It was up to the generosity of Canadians.
The challenge with that kind of open-ended approach is that we don't have the fiscal resources within our own budget to manage that, so it takes a long time. We need to secure the resources. It's open-ended and the final requirements are uncertain. It was also open to a large membership of actors that could apply for the funding. As a result, it would take us a tremendous amount of time—much longer than we thought was useful and, more importantly, responsible—to respond in a rapid manner to these emergencies. By putting it at a level of $10 million, I can fund it through the budget that I have for humanitarian assistance.
The date limit is something we've learned from our partners. Indeed through their own interactions with us, they have indicated a shorter limit because the money usually comes in early or right at the end. In between, not a lot happens, so they feel like the shorter period actually gives a focused target to the giving. It allows us to effectively respond quickly, so we can release the monies to our partners.
Maybe just to give you some example of the timing for previous relief funds, we had one in Pakistan for previous flooding. It took 200 days to get the money out. With this last flood in Pakistan, it took 30 days. We have an extremely fast tool at our disposal that allows us to respond.
I'd just like to remind, Chair, that it's one tool among many. We have a broad group of tools. We're releasing relief supplies tomorrow. They are flying out from Dubai. It includes 10,000 blankets, enough hygiene kits for 2,000 families or 10,000 individuals, and other items as well. We have a broad range of tools. The matching fund is one that we think is important for public engagement, but again, it's just one of those tools.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I would like to thank all the officials for being here today and sharing this information with us.
I do have one quick thing that I'd like to read into the record, a notice of motion that was sent out to all members yesterday, I believe. I move:
That the committee report the following to the House: The committee calls on the Government of Canada, without delay, to amend sections of the Criminal Code currently preventing Canadian humanitarian organizations from delivering aid in Afghanistan and similar contexts without fear of prosecution.
I just want to make sure that I have moved that into the record. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm going to start with the Humanitarian Coalition. I think it's very clear. We've heard from members from all parties now that they all support the Humanitarian Coalition receiving these funds and being part of the matching fund.
I understand what the witnesses have told us with regard to the decision being made, but now knowing that there is cross-party support, knowing that there is very clear proof that the Humanitarian Coalition has members on the ground who are able to do this work.... Of course the matching fund is vitally important for their efforts to fundraise for Turkey and Syria.
Will the Government of Canada be considering changing the matching fund to include the Humanitarian Coalition?
Thank you, officials, not only for being here today but for your work. I'm constantly impressed at the professionalism and agility.
I'm a midtown Toronto boy, and I don't pretend to know your work, so I trust you.
Thank you to the officials who moved on this so quickly, not only on behalf of Canada but as humanitarians. I think that sometimes coming to this committee is an abuse. You put up with the abuse well, and your work is appreciated greatly by Canadians. I want to thank you.
We recently looked at the flooding in Pakistan as an issue. What came into my head on that issue was that short-term crisis management is about recovery and trying to save as many lives as possible. The mid-term is to look at whether there's an outbreak of cholera or other things that happen in these disasters. There's a mid-term moment, and then there's a long-term moment. We're somewhere between that immediate first moment and the second moment. We're somewhere in that phase right now.
I know that you don't have a crystal ball and I know that it's a complex situation, but can you give us a sense of where we might be going and what might be demanded or required of Canadians to be supportive?
Welcome back, everyone.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Thursday, February 7, 2023, the committee is holding a briefing on the humanitarian crisis following a series of earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.
It is now my pleasure to welcome our witnesses, most of whom are joining us virtually. From the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, we have Monsignor Peter Vaccari, president, and Adriana Bara, national director. From the Humanitarian Coalition, we have Richard Morgan, executive director. From Islamic Relief Canada, we have Usama Khan, chief executive officer. From Oxfam Canada, we have André Charlebois, humanitarian project manager, Oxfam-Québec.
First of all, thank you for being here. You will be provided with five minutes for opening remarks. After that, we will open it up to questions from the members. Once you're 30 seconds short of the allotted time, I will put up this sign. You can hopefully try to wrap it up in the remaining 30 seconds that you have available to you.
On that note, we will now go to Monsignor Vaccari.
The floor is yours, sir, for five minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, vice-chairs and the rest of the committee, for the opportunity to be here this afternoon. I accompany Dr. Adriana Bara, who is the national director of CNEWA in Canada.
I will take the opportunity to offer some introductory comments to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. I believe that Dr. Bara has already prepared and submitted to the committee a very specific report. We certainly welcome this opportunity to share our experiences with the committee and to answer any questions that the committee may have.
The Catholic Near East Welfare Association was organized, founded, by Pope Pius XI in 1926. Since that time, as we approach our centennial celebration now, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association has as its specific mandate to give humanitarian and pastoral assistance to the Catholic churches of the Eastern rites, the Eastern Catholic Churches, of which there are 23.
When we do this, the assistance that we give—be it humanitarian or pastoral—is given as we accompany the local church in a particular area that has been affected by some kind of very difficult situation. It's certainly similar to what we are all aware of right now with regard to the earthquakes in parts of Turkey and Syria.
We have recently given assistance to Ukraine and Lebanon over the last two or three years. We work with the local church and all of the representatives there in providing the kind of humanitarian assistance that the local people—especially where we are working with our offices on the ground—want us to provide with their very specific needs. In this case—
Again, I thank the chair and I thank the committee for this opportunity.
The Catholic Near East Welfare Association works with the local churches and with our offices on the ground. Particularly in the case of Syria, our office in Beirut is the office that is really responsible for and is in contact with the needs that develop in Syria.
We are cultivating partnerships, as we do in other places, particularly now with Caritas in Turkey, to be able to also request support from our donors to try to give assistance to those areas. It's primarily in Syria, through our office on the ground in Beirut, and through partnerships trying to give assistance in Turkey.
We began this emergency campaign shortly after learning, as the world did, of the earthquake that came into Turkey and Syria. The immediate needs we're now responding to are for blankets, food, milk, diapers, medication and mattresses. Again, I believe all of these are in the report, which was submitted to the committee. This is so you have a sense of where we go, at least initially.
We will continue as long as we can along those lines. In other instances, we have transferred as needs develop. Through contact with our office, particularly here in Beirut, we see where else we have needs and where else we must respond. In many other instances, that has included moving toward further humanitarian needs and, of course, at a certain point in time—we're not near that here—toward the psychological and social needs of a particular people.
Our aid comes because of the requests that we receive. Our aid, humanitarian especially, is distributed to everyone. There is no question about faith. There is no question about any other condition for someone who is in such a horrific situation as this. Our work is very much directed towards people of every faith and people who are in any kind of condition of need. That has been the purpose. That has been the work of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association for the areas where the Eastern Catholic Churches are located, which are in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, India and in eastern Europe. We continue to work and be of service.
It's a great privilege for us to be able to answer a fundamental gospel mandate for us, which is the parable of the good Samaritan. We try to answer the question, “Who is my neighbour?”
Again, I thank the committee for the opportunity. I'm sure that you'll hear from Dr. Bara on the report that she submitted, which is a much more extensive and comprehensive view of what we are doing. Then we would both like to be available to answer any of the questions that any committee members may have.
I thank the committee.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for inviting the Humanitarian Coalition to attend this meeting and discuss the urgent situation in Turkey and Syria as well as Canada's response to the crisis.
I'm happy to see two of our members, Islamic Relief Canada and Oxfam-Québec, also present at this meeting.
While it is not yet a familiar name to many, the Humanitarian Coalition brings together 12 of Canada's leading international aid agencies working in 140 countries. These include Action Against Hunger, Canadian Lutheran World Relief, CARE, Doctors of the World, Humanity & Inclusion, Islamic Relief, Oxfam-Québec and Oxfam Canada, Plan International, Save the Children and World Vision. In addition, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank is a member that brings together 15 other church-based development agencies, including Mennonite Central Committee, Caritas Canada and others.
Together we provide Canadians with a simple and effective way to help when disaster strikes. Since 2009, we have raised $160 million to aid eight million people in over 120 disasters. Our members work across the peacebuilding, development and humanitarian nexus with combined annual operations exceeding $1.1 billion. We reach 16 million to 18 million Canadians, and we are supported by more than 2.5 million active donors.
Last year we partnered with the Canadian government, as many of you know, to respond to the hunger crisis in sub-Saharan Africa and to the flooding in Pakistan, but you may not know that we also responded to more than a dozen small-scale responses worldwide.
With that background in mind, allow me to focus on three key messages today.
The first is that the needs in Turkey and Syria are massive and growing. Beyond the search and rescue efforts that have been the focus of much of our discussion, a second wave of humanitarian needs is already upon us. We need to shelter, feed, protect, reunite, care for and educate tens of thousands of homeless, displaced children, women and men in the coming weeks and months ahead, particularly during this cold winter period.
Second, our members are already responding and scaling up in the affected areas, but government and private funding to date has been inadequate. A much more significant response from Canada and the global community is urgently required.
Third, I would like to emphasize the value add that the Humanitarian Coalition brings as a partner with the government. The government cannot and should not do it all, and Canada lags behind many of its OECD counterparts in terms of leveraging philanthropy during humanitarian crises. In partnering with the Humanitarian Coalition and its networks, the government can mobilize more Canadians to help save more lives.
As you may have seen, the death toll in Turkey and Syria has risen to more than 37,000, although reports, of course, are different depending on which source you are referring to. Many thousands more, at least 100,000, have suffered injuries, and these numbers will continue to rise. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 26 million people, 15 million in Turkey and 11 million in Syria, are affected in both countries.
Six thousand buildings or more are damaged or destroyed, including hospitals, residences, schools and government buildings. Many others remain standing but are unsafe, and more will come down. As you may know, more than 2,100 aftershocks have been felt in the last week alone. This leaves thousands of families in both countries without adequate shelter and livelihoods. Urgent action is needed to avert a further catastrophe.
Worldwide, our members are already actively working through national offices and local partners, and I want to emphasize that localization aspect of our work. In Turkey, seven of our members are actively programming, and some have been there for more than 20 years. In Syria, all 12 of our member agencies have been active there for at least a decade and, as you know, 4.1 million people in the northwest area are already dependent on humanitarian assistance due to years of conflict.
My colleagues at Islamic Relief and Oxfam-Québec will speak more to their work, but overall our response includes the multiple stages of immediate, near-term and then medium and longer term response: ongoing assistance with search and rescue; emergency food and multi-purpose cash; shelter and non-food items; primary care and medical supplies; water, sanitation and hygiene, including menstrual health management support; mental health and psychosocial support, assistance with devices for those who have experienced life-changing injuries; protection and safe spaces for children and women particularly; education in emergencies, which has been terribly disrupted; and eventually building back better and recovering livelihoods.
Despite the scale of the devastation, Canadians are not abandoning hope. To date we have raised more than $8 million together, and this will help approximately 400,000 people. Each donation makes a difference in another person's life. A blanket may cost only $8 but can make the world of difference to someone out in the cold.
To give you one inspiring example of Canadian generosity, Izmir Kassam from Calgary just turned 10 years old on February 6, the day that the earthquake struck. He loves to run, and he's running to raise funds for the victims of the earthquake in Syria and Turkey. He will do 10 runs of 10 kilometres each over 10 weeks starting this Sunday. We need more of Izmir's compassion, more of his courage and more of his creativity in the coming weeks.
In summary, the needs in Turkey are significant and growing. The members of the Humanitarian Coalition are already responding and scaling up, but government and private funding so far has been inadequate. The government cannot and should not do it all, as I said earlier. It needs to leverage the power and creativity of philanthropy in support of this response.
This leads me to two recommendations for the committee. One, in support of the work that you heard from Mr. Salewicz earlier, the government needs to mobilize substantial and supplemental funding. Second, we would urge that the government consider a matching fund with the members of the Humanitarian Coalition so that we can stretch the support that Canadians are willing to provide and so that we can mobilize media and public-corporate networks to transform this terrible situation.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thanks again for inviting us to share some of our comments and recommendations with you, and I thank you for your attention. I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Good afternoon, honourable chair and members of the committee. I just wanted to start off by thanking all of you for the really important work you do. I know recently you had a study on Bill , and it's now awaiting third reading. We really appreciate all of the hard work.
Today, we are here to talk about the earthquake that happened just over a week ago.
I'm here to represent the more than 85,000 injured people who no longer have a home. I'm here to represent all those we lost.
I'm here to represent our courageous staff members, both in Turkey and Syria, who've been living there, are nationals over there, and many of whom have lost their own family members. One of our staff members lost 32 members of his extended family, yet after burying them, with so much courage, patience and a sense of community service, he is back distributing aid to those who have survived.
I'm also here to represent the 21,000 Canadians across the country who have donated to Islamic Relief Canada, and the many more tens of thousands who have donated to our various partners of the Humanitarian Coalition. Canadians across the country have seen the images and the videos on social media and in the media, and they're deeply impacted by what those in Turkey and Syria are going through. I'm here to represent the concerns they have and the expectations they have of public officials, elected officials, from all sides of the aisle.
As you know, the epicentre of the earthquake was in Turkey. I was in Gaziantep a few years ago. The southern parts of Turkey have hosted millions of Syrian refugees who have escaped a decade of civil war and conflict. The infrastructure in Turkey has been well established and their disaster risk readiness is well established, so hours after the earthquake they were able to bring excavators and construction vehicles to start digging.
However, because of the constant air strikes, many of the buildings in Syria were already unstable. More than 3.3 million people in northwest Syria have already been displaced, and not just once but multiple times. There is a lost generation of children who haven't been able to go to school.
They didn't have construction vehicles or bulldozers to respond to the cries they heard from their family members. I was speaking to our head of mission of Syria yesterday, and he was telling stories about people being able to hear their family members but not being able to move rocks and rubble to help save them.
As you know, the constant fear of air strikes, the lack of health infrastructure and the recent outbreak of cholera all make this incredibly difficult for the Syrians in the northwest and throughout Syria. There were access issues to get aid into Syria in the first few days after the disaster. The only border crossing between Turkey and Syria was closed. That has recently opened. Just yesterday we heard about the UN facilitating the opening of a few more access points from Turkey to Syria.
Our local staff in both Turkey and Syria have been operating there for more than a decade. We have warehouses in Syria. We have procurement supplies that we solicit in Syria. We have banking mechanisms to ensure that funding can be spent on people in a reliable way through our local staff members. We have more than 600 project staff and more than 60 permanent management staff in Syria coordinating all of our aid efforts.
The asks, I think, are primarily for funding.
The Canadian government has announced $10 million and a $10-million matching fund for the Red Cross. As my colleague Richard Morgan has said, it's imperative that the government announce an extension of the matching fund through the Humanitarian Coalition. The 12 agencies will be able to go to their donor base and the general public to incentivize Canadians to continue to step up after this news goes off the news cycle and off our social media feeds. Unfortunately, the needs will be very long term in terms of shelter and rebuilding infrastructure and livelihoods.
We ask for a more direct funding commitment from the government. We ask for a matching fund. We ask that in the upcoming budget there not be a decrease in the ODA and the development portfolio. We understand that Canada itself is facing a potential economic recession and rising inflation. However, there's an imperative that we step up and continue to help those around the world.
Last, we ask this committee to take an interest in the underlying crisis in Syria, ensure that more humanitarian corridors are open and use our soft power with our multilateral partners and the UN to push for a resolution of the 10-year-old civil war.
Thank you so much.
Members of the committee, my name is André Charlebois, humanitarian project manager at Oxfam-Québec.
Throughout its 50-year existence, Oxfam had dedicated itself to fighting inequality and ending poverty. Oxfam-Québec and Oxfam Canada are members of the Oxfam International confederation, comprising 21 affiliate members. Oxfam-Québec and Oxfam Canada are also members of the Humanitarian Coalition, which Mr. Morgan spoke about earlier.
I'm here today to speak more specifically to Oxfam's presence in Syria.
Oxfam has been present in Syria since 2013. For 10 years, it's been working to supply safe drinking water through infrastructure upgrades and to increase vulnerable populations' means of sustenance. In order to work in Syria, we've had to negotiate framework agreements with local partners, government departments and the public water utility company. We have three offices: The first is in Aleppo, in the north, the second in Deir ez-Zor, in the east, and the third in Damascus, in the south.
Since the quake, Oxfam has been hard at work dealing with the humanitarian emergency and addressing immediate needs. When the quake hit, Syria was already fragile. The earthquake only exacerbated a humanitarian crisis that was already gripping the country. The people were already reeling from the aftermath of 12 years of conflict. The communities are destroyed, the economy's weakened and the infrastructure is crumbling. There is a serious lack of basic services, which is now being compounded by the destruction wrought by the quake, a cholera epidemic and, of course, a harsh winter. More than ever, the Syrian people are in need of long-term, lasting support.
Before the quake, close to 15 million people were already in need of support. Moreover, 85% of households were unable to meet their basic needs. Seven million people had been displaced internally, and two million were living in camps.
Humanitarian response often occurs in the short term. In other words, the goal is to save lives in the days and months following a disaster, and yet the impact on communities and families continues to be felt over the long term, in the range of several months to several years, even. Immediate aid is not enough; we need to rebuild these communities. We need lasting, long-term support. We need to go beyond the initial response to a humanitarian crisis and support reconstruction efforts. Long-term aid means forging ties with local partners, supporting communities and strengthening civil society organizations.
Two-thirds of Syrians are currently living outside of active conflict zones. Their needs are changing, and the aid as well as the funding need to adapt. Oxfam believes that the best way to lift people out of poverty is to upgrade public infrastructures. Before the war, Syria had large-scale infrastructure and public services. We need to build on that to help the Syrians.
There are still barriers to lasting support, however: the lack of flexible, long-term funding as well as the global sanctions that undermine humanitarian response and ultimately hurt the people. Everyday Syrians are hardest hit by these sanctions, as they lack fuel and electricity. Sanctions prevent operations from going smoothly and being efficient and long-lasting.
Let's move on to our requests. In order to give the Syrian people a chance to make it, governments need to focus on lasting solutions. Canada needs to show leadership. It has a duty to invest not only in emergency assistance, but also in infrastructure rebuilding efforts. It needs to provide flexible, multi-year funding. The aid should be completely apolitical. Our humanitarian response is guided by our principles: impartiality, neutrality and independence. Canadian aid should adhere to the same principles.
I'll happily expand on that during the rounds of questions.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here and, more importantly, for the important work you are doing in this crisis situation and the important work you do at all times, helping some of the most vulnerable people around the world.
I want to just start by underlining our party's support for more inclusive matching programs. This has been a consistent ask. Our preference is that the government try to be as inclusive as possible in its approach to the matching programs so as to not, in effect, deter donations to smaller organizations. Certainly a matching program for the Humanitarian Coalition as a whole would be much preferable to a matching program involving the Red Cross only.
That concern is reflected in the report that was tabled today on our findings related to the response to the earthquake in Pakistan.
Thank you to all of you for being here. I want to start with a question for CNEWA and Islamic Relief.
Could you both share a little bit about the particular impacts of this crisis situation on religious and ethnic minority communities, people who may already face various kinds of challenges and people who are displaced as well?
Maybe we will start with CNEWA and then go Islamic Relief.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and MP McPherson.
I would emphasize that, indeed, to your point, the members of the Humanitarian Coalition are deeply localized. The Grand Bargain commitments that Mr. Salewicz was referring to earlier are I think most effectively delivered by members of the Humanitarian Coalition already working through national offices staffed by local and national staff, and also by partners, really driving home the localization commitment we've all made as part of the Grand Bargain.
I'd also add that, as Usama mentioned, many of our members are part of those neighbours helping neighbours. They're digging through the rubble trying to help those whose cries they are hearing. Some of our own members' teams have been lost as a result of these earthquakes. Communities are always the first responders, and we rally in behind them.
What does that mean in terms of our response at the moment in Turkey? It includes Gaziantep, Urfa, Mardin, Hatay, Sanliurfa and Izmir. In Syria the areas include Aleppo, Hama, Tartus, Latakia, Afrin, Idlib, Azaz, Al-Hasakah, Daraa, and also areas controlled by the government and Kurdish parties as well as by Syrian defence forces.
The point is that we have local access in many contexts. We would like the committee as well as Global Affairs to recognize that.
First, thank you to all the organizations that have come here for the work that you do on the ground, not only in this part of the world but in many other parts of the world as well.
The riding that I'm privileged to represent has a very large Turkish population, also members of Kurdish heritage, to the extent that if I go to my local park with my daughters, I'll hear the Turkish language being spoken quite frequently. There are a number of restaurants and cafés run by individuals.
I first want to start by expressing my condolences, because I know many members of my community, especially of Kurdish heritage, have lost members back home. I've spoken with many of them. They've lost a lot, not just property but loved ones as well. My heart goes out to them.
In terms of the short-term needs of the population, if we can divide it between the impacted areas in Turkey and the impacted areas in Syria, what more can we be doing on the ground that we are not doing at this moment in time?
The federal government has made commitments. We are there. I was thanked by the Turkish ambassador here in Canada when I went to see him last week. What further can we be doing to assist that would make a tangible difference?
Perhaps I could start off with Oxfam Canada, then go to Catholic Near East, then to Islamic Relief and then finish up with Mr. Morgan, if he can answer quickly. Thank you.
Of course. I will then pass the floor to Mr. Charlebois.
The point we would be emphasizing is the multiple phases of emergency.
As Usama pointed out, in the first instance, mobilizing heavy machinery to be able to move debris was very challenging and remains challenging. What's heart-wrenching for all of us is that the window is shrinking fast. I think we're moving tragically from a point of rescuing people in rubble to rescuing bodies. That's heartbreaking.
Once you've managed to get as many people as possible out of the rubble, then you absolutely need to shelter, feed and care for these people. This is not only going to be a matter of weeks. It's going to be a matter of months. So many buildings are compromised on both sides of the border: in terms of Syria from previous hostilities, and in the case of Turkey from challenges in terms of building codes and other issues. So many buildings are unsafe. It's not habitable for people to be in such proximity for such extended periods. Shelter is going to be a huge issue.
Then, people have experienced psychosocial trauma and need support. The children have gone through something that's unimaginable for the vast majority of us, and they'll need support. Then, of course, there's the long-term recovery of livelihoods.
Thank you for the question.
I think the analogy of giving people fish and teaching them how to fish applies. There are absolutely urgent needs in terms of search and rescue, in terms of providing tents. Last night it was -5°C in the region. Lots of people are being forced to sleep in cars. Tents, blankets, food and non-food items, these are the urgent needs in Turkey, but very much so in Syria because of all the points mentioned.
For this crisis, the needs will not go away in a week, in months or even years, so there has to be a long-term commitment from countries like Canada to make sure that we can ensure safeguarding, we can ensure health care facilities and infrastructure, we can rebuild public infrastructure and roads, and we can ensure there are long-term safe dwellings for families.
For our teams and other organizations, I think it's going to take all of us together to do this, and it's going to take a commitment for many years.